Have you ever wanted to give an aardvark a ride on your neck? You say “no”, but every time you look down at your phone to type that perfect post you are giving that aardvark a ride. Dr. Kenneth Hansraij, a New York Spine surgeon, used a computer model of the human spine1 to show that as the head tilts forward the force on the neck surges. The human head weights 10-12 pounds by itself, but effectively increases to 27 pounds with a 15 degrees forward neck bend, 40 pounds at 30 degrees, 49 pounds at 45 degrees, and 60 pounds at 60 degrees.
Obviously your texting, typing, and other phone obsessions are a problem for your neck. Time accrued in your classic texting positions means you are more susceptible to headaches, weakened shoulders, and numbness and tingling down the arms. You are also more likely to express other preventable musculoskeletal disorders including disc dysfunctions, reversal of cervical spine or thoracic spine, stenosis, and poor neck proprioception. That last one will affect your balance, by the way.
An interesting study on texting and walking was recently published in Public Library of Science3. The study reviewed the altered walking mechanics of text walkers, showing text walkers walk slower, have a greater lateral deviation, and unhealthy movements of the neck that can cause loss of proprioception. Further, text walkers lack situational awareness. Do you think Jon Snow would walk while texting when north of the Wall? A Text Walker would be the easiest of targets for a White Walker.
So how to fix the texting caused issues you probably already have, and thereby avoid aardvarks, headaches, and White Walkers? Here are a few ideas to help.
- First and foremost, no texting behind the wheel. Texting while driving is a leading indicator of someone having taken several evolutionary steps backward.
- Always be Mindful of Position. Only work on your phone or tablet if you can do so while laying on your stomach or by placing the device at eye level with at least a foot between your nose and the screen.
- Rebuild your spinal curve. Text Neck is a real thing. The neck slopes forward and the shoulders droop, vulture-like. Over time the spinal curve adjusts to better support this position, which is not a good thing. Set an alarm and every hour on the hour squeeze the shoulders down and back, tuck your chin, and tilt the chin towards the ceiling. For heavy texters, perform 10 reps every hour on the hour in a standing posture. To get a sense of how far forward your head currently tilts, stand with your back against a wall and see how far you need to pull your head back until it touches the wall.
- Find a way to use your phone with one hand. The change in phone form factor in the last 3 years almost requires two hands to operate a phone. It’s easier to keep the phone at eye level with one hand than with two. So if means dusting off your Blackberry or flip phone, or buying a single-hand holding device, do it.
- Reduce time on your phone. Did you feel a slight panic when you read that? If so, that’s a sign in and of itself. Time accrued in poor positions will wreak havoc on your body and health over time, whether it’s lifting weights, running, sitting, or texting. Besides reducing the impact of poor texting position described above, reducing phone time has a number of other health and social benefits.
- Help your kids. Kids sit 85% of their day, according to Standupkids.org. Do what you can to get your kids away from tablet and phone games and send them outside. Get them standing when they do their homework. Teach them more appropriate ways to lay down. 2
In summary, we’ll keep it simple. Just say no to Text Neck. At the very least, you’ll appear taller.
For information on walking and texting, the good people at Road Safety Group have put this together.
1The Atlantic.com. What Texting Does to the Spine. http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/11/what-texting-does-to-the-spine/382.Published Nov 2014. Accessed July 21 2015.
2StandUpKids.org. Sitting versus Standing. http://standupkids.org/standing-vs-sitting/. Published January 2015. Accessed July 7 2015
3Shabruhn S, Van Den Hoorn W et al. Texting and Walking: Strategies for Postural Control and Implication for Study. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0084312. January 22 2014